Grand Homecoming Stories: Why we go to Luneta

The heat was scorching. Such made the people in Luneta not only uncomfortable but also a bit difficult to breathe. It was not an exaggeration to say that each one who was there bumped into another every two seconds. The Jesus Is Lord Church Worldwide’s 40th Anniversary was jampacked!

Despite the heat and all sorts of discomfort, people were smiling. They were obviously joyful.

Everyone just wanted to be there, to be a part of history. After all, celebrating 40 glorious years of God’s faithfulness is a milestone, historic event! And this year’s thanksgiving was more than a celebration, it was a Grand Homecoming unlike any other!

The JIL people anticipated something glorious to happen, one they’d never seen before; something miraculous.

When the program started, people who didn’t even know each other smiled and sang along, praising, and worshipping God together. It was a family atmosphere.

“Kulang kung wala sa Luneta”

Sis. Euphemia Redoble was along the sidewalk of Roxas Boulevard proudly wearing a blue JIL 40th Anniversary commemorative t-shirt and dancing with both her arms lifted up in praise.

She is a 76-year-old widow from JIL Navotas. It was her first time to attend a JIL celebration in Luneta. It was also her first time to be in such an amazingly huge event! Sis. Euphemia is a new member of the JIL and has been attending church for just a little over a month. She brought along her two grandsons, Ashley Jude and Marcos Henry, in Luneta.

Sis. Euphemia was attending another church in La Union before she was requested to move to Manila to take care of her two grandsons. But even then, she did not feel that she belonged there. “Maraming bawal! Hindi ka makasayaw, hindi pwedeng kumanta!” That was why she was very glad to have found JIL through Bro. Eddie Villanueva’s “Jesus The Healer” television program.

Today, being with JIL Navotas and being part of a life group, Sis. Euphemia says she is now at home. “Nakahanap na ako ng church na kung saan gusto ko na doon na ako pipirmi,” she said.

And one would think that a woman her age would prefer to just watch the event on television, in the comfort of her home. Plus she has asthma and has constant trouble breathing everyday. But in such a crowded Luneta, Sis Euphemia was filled with wonder and gratitude for a miracle: She did not feel any difficulty with breathing, she was A-ok that day! She said she felt good and was thankful that she did not have to take her medication.

When asked why she travelled all the way to Luneta, her answer was simple: “Kasama na yan sa pagsisilbi sa Panginoon. Kapag na-miss mo ang ibang gawain [gaya ng selebrasyon sa Luneta], parang kulang ka sa buhay. Pero uulitin ko pa rin yung program sa TV!”

Rediscovering roots

Theo Jaire “TJ” Delagua is a 20-year-old college student and a youth leader in JIL Alberta, Canada. He has been away from the Philippines for almost 12 years. While here, he was a member of JIL Cubao.

He said that there were major adjustments transferring to a church overseas. He also explained that there are challenges serving the Lord in a foreign country. “Being young right now is hard, [most are] living in a double standard life. But as Christians, we have to be the light of the world wherever we go, to live out the values of the Church, and to be Christlike. Honestly, being around people of other nationalities is harder because we have language barriers, differences in how they were raised and how we were raised as Filipinos, and differences in standards like how we show respect to elders. Just be Christlike.”

Bro. TJ’s journey to the #JILGrandHomecoming was not without its own challenges. He had to skip school and sacrificed a summer. But nothing could stop him from going to Luneta! Plans to be part of this glorious celebration started in February, to make sure he would be able to come. For TJ, coming home is to rediscover and be reminded of his roots, as a Filipino, and as a Christian. Coming home is to be reminded what a privilege it is to know and serve God in his generation, to be a legacy bearer.

By Michelle Cristina Gamutan

JIL is God-given family

It’s hard to lose your family. It’s like losing the reason why you’re still alive. It’s like you have become a dead man alive. Pastor Roque Peñalosa went through this experience, but why is he still here fighting? How did he overcome this moment of depression?

Tragedy of 1991

Ormoc City, Leyte – Pastor Roque’s hometown – was hit by a strong typhoon in 1991. It was the first time that their area witnessed and experienced such devastating flash floods due to heavy rains. Dead people were everywhere. Wailing rang across the land. Pastor Roque’s immediate family members were among the casualties: Both his parents, two sisters, and a brother.

Days later, stories of those who survived the flash floods were not encouraging at all. The flood waters tossed them anywhere. Floating materials bruised, or worse, cut their skin. The storm was just too strong and the flood waters, obviously overwhelming.

Pastor Roque survived, but as days passed, he began to question in his heart why his family died. Depression hit him badly and wondered why God kept him alive. But he fought this thought by praying to God for him to keep his faith. He was already a pastor by then and he also held tightly to the Word of God he was preaching.

Encounter with God

Before he surrendered his life to the Lord Jesus, he had wanted to die and was in fact planning to stage a suicide.

But indeed, God has His reasons why He kept Pastor Roque alive! Even then, God had stopped him from suicide. On the day he intended to kill himself, someone came over to invite him to the Sunday worship service of the Jesus Is Lord (JIL) Church. He accepted the invitation, went to church, and for the first time, heard the Gospel of Jesus.

Understanding and feeling the love and embrace of God that day, He then accepted Jesus in his heart as Lord and Savior – without hesitation. Then and there, he got back his reason to live.

He became thankful to God for always saving him from destruction, even death. God had been so gracious to him and so he realized that if in the low points of his life, God always rescued him, why not dedicate his life to his Savior? He decided to serve the Lord under the banner of JIL.

“The LORD has sworn and will not change his mind: ‘You are a priest forever, in the order of Melchizedek’” from Psalm 110:4 became God’s rhema Word for him to finally yield to his calling as a pastor. He never looked back from then on. He served God by ministering to the wounded and lost souls – the ones who were like him before he heard the Gospel. Pastor Roque is now the Regional Pastor of JIL Region 8 in Leyte. He says that this is all by the grace of God.

From his painful past which made him feel empty, God made him realize that he is alive for His purposes. The once lonely Pastor Roque is now a joyful, humble man of God. He is being used in marvelous ways in spreading the Gospel of the Lord Jesus. He finds his happiness in seeing people being transformed by God. In the ministry, he has encountered people who were once adulterer, drug addict, criminal, who then turned into a worship leader, minister, and pastor even. This gives him contentment and reason to continue his passion in serving the Lord.

Gratitude for his family

Pastor Roque is grateful to JIL as it became a family to him after he had lost his own in the 1991 tragedy. He had always felt that the JIL Church accepted him and gave him a place he could call home.

“Ang JIL hindi lang church kundi ito ay isang malaking pamilya. Salamat sa Diyos at mayroong JIL,” he said.

He described the JIL Family as a place where people respect one another, love one another and care for one another. And now that JIL is in its 40th year, God’s revelation is no other than to support Bro. Eddie Villanueva, a true man of God, in all that God will tell him to do. He is here to support his God-given family.

By Julia Ramos

JD Cruz: JIL millennial, youth leader, legacy-bearer

Born and bred inside the Jesus is Lord (JIL) Church Worldwide, JD Cruz was picked among thousands of possible candidates to represent the student and youth sector in JIL’s 40th Anniversary “Grand Homecoming” teaser.

“I didn’t expect to be chosen for the anniversary commercial so it is a great honor for me and my family,” said JD, whose father, Joel, is the head pastor of JIL Guagua in Pampanga under the supervision of Rev. Alex Garcia, Director for National Operations..

Currently taking up his masters degree in Public Administration, the younger Cruz wears many hats inside his local church, such as Life Group and worship leader.

He admitted that the pressures of being a “pastors’ kid” was not easy and for a time, he had serious thoughts of keeping to the “strait and narrow road” when his peers seemingly were having the time of their lives.

“May mga temptations din of being a pastor’s kid. Naging mahirap din po ang mga dinaanang pagsubok,” said the 23-year-old youth leader. “Pero noong first year college po ako nag-decide po ako maging totally committed kay Lord. Nothing in this world truly matters.”

If anything, he added, the outstanding lesson he learned from his father and pastor “was the value of a human soul; that all of us should be active in sharing John 3:16 to others. In the light of eternity, noting else matters. ”

Cruz stressed that the grave responsibility of sharing the Good News of Jesus Christ was underscored during the message given by Sen. Joel Villanueva during the recent Youth Summit held at the Cuneta Astrome.

“Sen. Joel was right when he challenged the youth present to be the JIL’s legacy bearers as we mark our 40th Anniversary, ushering in a new generation of leaders who will carry the Gospel message,” he noted. “This is the huge role I and my fellow youth hope to live up to.”

Indeed, for JD Cruz and for legions of millennials like him, proud “legacy bearers” of JIL trailblazers, the worldwide mission of evangelizing and discipling people for the next 40 years and beyond is just beginning.

By Bong Pedralvez

Tatay Abet Perez: Productive JIL “farmer,” harvesting souls for God’s kingdom

With his bronze complexion and lean, sturdy features, “Tatay” Abet Perez can truly be mistaken as a hardworking farmer.

Perez – who was chosen to represent the Jesus is Lord (JIL) Church members in the countryside in the JIL 40th Anniversary “Grand Homecoming” teaser – is actually a former overseas Filipino worker (OFW) who worked as plumber for 15 years in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia.

Both his parents, however, were both humble rice farmers in Bustos, Bulacan, and from whom he learned the values of hard work and sacrifice.

Why else would Perez venture to the “upside-down” oil-rich Middle East country to work and earn a living for his wife and five children?

It was while attending a secret Bible study (because such religious activities are banned in the country) at the barracks of his company where he was led to believing in Jesus Christ as both Lord and Savior.

When it was time for him to return to the country for good, his brethren encouraged Perez to remain faithful in his spiritual journey and endorsed the JIL Church to be his new Christian “home.”

“Maganda at masaya ang praise and worship sa JIL. Maganda rin ang mga katuruan,” said the former OFW, who is a member of the Security of the Saints (SOS) ministry of JIL Bustos, and whose two daugthers also serve in various ministries in their respective JIL chapters.

And while he may not have been a farm worker as his late parents, Tatay Abet has found a rich field to till in handling seven families as a Life Group Network in his local church.

Truly, the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree as Perez has become a productive JIL “farmer” : harvesting souls for the Kingdom of the Almighty God.

By Bong Pedralvez

Ex-OFW Rosana Gayas put passion for God and family above else

A former overseas Filipino worker (OFW) in Qatar, Sister Rosana Gayas made the bold step nearly two years ago to come home for good and look after her husband and two children.

Although active in her Christian fellowship in the Qatari capital of Doha, Gayas, who was chosen to represent the millions of OFWs in the JIL 40th Anniversary “Grand Homecoming” teaser, decided that caring for her family was far more priceless than the dollars she would earn in that country.

“Umalis ako ng Pilipinas bata pa ang mga anak ko – limang taon si Elizabeth at pitong taon si John Emmanuel,” recalled the 53-year-old midwife of her decision to work in a foreign land to support her truck driver husband, Joel, himself a former expat worker in Saudi Arabia.

She said she realized that even with all the modern communications technology at hand such as the Internet, texts and mobile phones, nothing could replace the actual presence, nurture and care of a mother in her family’s life.

Gayas admitted that reconnecting with her brood, especially her children, continues to be a challenge.

In these challenges, the ex-OFW was grateful that she has found solid spiritual and moral support in JIL Church Bustos in Bulacan under Ptr. Nancy Teodoro.

“Malaking bagay na member po ako ng JIL Bustos sa ilalim ni Ptra Nancy,” said Gayas, who is a member of the church’s WIN (Warriors’ Intercessors Network).

She stressed that she has no regrets in leaving Qatar, firmly believing that the same God who provided for her and her family there is the same Jehovah Jireh who will look after them in the country.

While her husband Joel is back to driving trucks locally, Gayas now runs a growing drug store owned by her and her sister.

“Nananampalataya po ako na kung anong pagpapala na ibigay sa akin ng Panginoon sa Qatar ay kayang ibigay sa amin kahit na ako’y naririto na,” she confidently said.

Amen to that, dearest Sister, amen to that.

By Bong Pedralvez

Tatay Rene: Journey to Greatness

Being a father is more than a role. It’s a calling, and it’s a tough one. As the head of the family, he must be strong, even amid difficult situations. He must be a role model to his children. He must work hard, even to the point of neglecting the strain of it on his body. And most importantly, he must be wise in his decisions because one mistake could cost him and his family everything. Fatherhood, indeed, is hard enough. But imagine how much harder it would be if a father also takes the role of a mother. Tatay Reynaldo “Rene” Sarmiento of the Jesus Is Lord (JIL) Church Manggahan Chapter in Rodriguez, Rizal became a widower 17 years ago when his wife died due to a kidney disease. From that moment on, he had to take care of the needs of his six children by himself.

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The Heart of a Mother in Faith

There is always that one woman who knows us so well – oftentimes more than we do know ourselves. She is our mother.

She knows us so well that she recognizes the difference between how we look at a plate of vegetables and a cup of ice cream. And before we can even have our desired ice cream, she would make sure she’d put first the vegetables right in front of us. She has her ways.

It is also heart-warming to remember the times when we are sure that we are loved in our great or down moments and when we are zealous or frustrated. Love naturally flows from her heart. A mother’s love, that is.

We celebrate this incomparable love this Mother’s Day!

However, this day is not just for our biological Mommy, Mama, Mamshie, or Mudra. It is also a day to appreciate our mothers in faith in the church: our Life Group leaders, our Ministry Heads, and most importantly, our Pastors. We appreciate because we are blessed by their efforts, encouragements, and support to us while they are also very occupied with work on the expansion of God’s Kingdom. Indeed, it is only fitting for us to acknowledge all that they have done for us.

One example of a person who has mothered and mentored many workers in the church is Ptr. Beng Magallanes, Jesus Is Lord (JIL) Church Regional Pastor of JIL Central Operations Region 4, which covers Pasay, Paranaque, Las Pinas, and Muntinlupa. While she does not have biological children, she would always be heard saying with pure joy, “The Lord has blessed me with many children in the ministry.”

For her, being a pastor is a big blessing, but it entails tough challenges that could sometimes test one’s faith, endurance, and courage. Praise be to God for His abounding grace!

Fair mother

Just like in any family where conflicts arise among siblings, there are also disagreements among her “children” in the ministry. The number of workers in the ministry is equal to the number of different personalities she handles. Dealing with these individuals’ differences is never easy. Thus, as a pastor and a mother to all of them, it is always a must for her to observe everyone’s strengths and weaknesses in order to always render a wise and proper judgment in times of conflict. She sees to it that she doesn’t fail to be a mediator whenever differences tend to create conflicts.

“It’s a must to give both sides the chance to be heard. Mahirap din naman ang one-sided,” Ptr. Beng says. To her, listening to all sides is indispensable.

Her principle whenever individual differences clash inside the church is: First, there will be a warning given by the Life Group leaders. If the problems still are not solved, it will be dealt by the Ministry Heads. She makes it a point that no leaders will be by-passed before she deals with the issue. Ptr. Beng believes that the proper process should be followed to be able to come up with a good decision or judgment. Ptr. Beng is a true mother to her children – a listener, a mediator, and a peace-maker.

Mother faithful to her calling

Ptr. Beng is a good example of serving the Lord’s calling in her life. In the midst of many challenges in the ministry, she is always inspired to serve the Lord. She says that she is grateful everyday to God for His grace. This grace is what makes her stand in the face of many trials in being a pastor. “Many are called but only few are chosen,” may be a common Bible verse to many Christians but Ptr. Beng believes in this. That is why she always says that she will always be beyond grateful to be chosen by the Lord and Bro. Eddie and Sis. Dory Villanueva to serve God in the JIL ministry.

There are days when a pastor has to deal with her personal concerns. But for Ptr. Beng, she always makes sure that her own trials would not cause any of her children to be discouraged or disheartened. Yes, there are low moments, but Ptr. Beng values her calling and always trusts the Lord she serves.

“The Lord is my motivation and it is a great privilege to be called and be chosen by Him,” said Ptr. Beng. “And of course, Bro. Eddie and his principles have inspired me also. Kung si Bro. Eddie nga mas grabe ang pinagdaanan, sino ba naman ako para sumuko?”

Multi-tasking mother

Moms are always great multi-taskers. The same is true with Ptr. Beng. Although she is a full-time pastor, she also has a family to take care of. Ptr. Beng and Ptr. Jeric Magallanes recently celebrated their 12th wedding anniversary.

How could she handle both? Her answer is time-management. She sees to it that she allots time for her own family and for the ministry.

“Our family is a ministry as well. Kung nagagawa nga nating paglingkuran ang ibang tao, hindi ba’t mas kailangan nating paglingkuran ang sarili nating pamilya?”

For Ptr. Beng, her family is a living testimony of God’s salvation. And she’s doing her best to take care of both her biological family and her family inside the church.

“It is a must to have a balanced life, a balanced Christian life,” she said. “Time-management could also mean stewardship. Because they both contain your whole life, all aspects of your life. And to be a good pastor, one needs to be a good steward as well.”

Ptr. Beng Magallanes’ message to all the people she worked and is working with and have considered her as their mother in faith: “Regalo kayong lahat sa akin ng Diyos.”

To her, everyone has their strengths. Everyone has their weaknesses. But everyone has their purpose. “Dahil sa kanila, natututo ako. Nahuhubog. I value relationships. Dahil pinalalago ako nito at tinuturuan. Hangga’t nariyan sila, I’m being equipped to maturity,” she explained with utmost sincerity.

“To all the families I have inside or outside the church, you are all important to me. You are all a gift to me.” – Julia Ramos

Christians offer Duterte admin rehab programs for drug dependents

Faithful to the mandate to boldly uphold the Lord’s agenda for the nation, Bro. Eddie Villanueva of the Jesus Is Lord (JIL) Church Worldwide revealed that a coalition of Christian churches in the Philippines offered President Rodrigo Duterte’s administration concrete programs centered on the rehabilitation and recovery of drug dependents. But there is no offer-taker from offices under the Office of the President.

Rehabilitation and recovery programs would involve various government agencies, including the Philippine National Police. The programs outline rehabilitation activities for drug addicts, spiritual support to overseas Filipino workers and their families in Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao, and spiritual support to the police who are engaged in the drug war policy.

Bro. Eddie stressed that as Christians, we have a moral obligation to be involved with pressing issues of the nation, including controversies involving the President who still maintains a popular support.

“We must apply wisdom and the Scripture in our conduct not only as Christians, but as citizens of our beloved Philippines,” Bro. Eddie said.

He also emphasized that while people are commanded by God to submit to God-ordained authority, based on Romans 13:1, if the authority becomes wicked like King Saul, God may reject and remove him, just as the account in 1 Samuel 15.

Bro. Eddie also quoted God’s Word on Ezekiel 22:13 “I will surely strike my hands together at the unjust gain you have made and at the blood you have shed in your midst” and Psalm 89:14 “Righteousness and Justice are the foundations of God’s throne.”

Michelle Cristina Gamutan

“Being here is a blessing”

A grateful heart who knows its God will always find a way to honor Him. This is the story of mother-and-son Marylie and Chris Guibao and their gratitude to the Lord Jesus Christ.

The mother and son joined their churchmates from the Jesus is Lord (JIL) Church Bauang, La Union as they boarded the bus going to Luneta. They will all join the celebration of JIL’s 39th anniversary. But unlike the rest, Chris boarded the bus and travelled for more than seven hours siting on his wheelchair. Chris has motor delay, a condition that makes his motor skills develop slowly. In the words of Sis. Marylie, “His muscle stretch reflexes are absent.”

Chris is wheelchair dependent, but his mother is always beside him to do what he is unable to do.

Chris said he does not mind the physical tiredness of going to Luneta, as he said that “Being here is a blessing.” He always has a pleasant disposition and, in fact, to the brethren in JIL Bauang, Chris is jolly, friendly, and encouraging.

Marylie said that the bus driver helped their other churchmates assist Chris in getting off the bus. “I took it as an opportunity to share to the driver the Gospel of the Lord and His goodness to our family,” Marylie was happy to recount.

Blessed with pastors

“I am very blessed with Pastors who grow old serving the Lord through thick and thin,” said Marylie.

“They never tire serving the Lord, and it has become my inspiration amid many life trials,” the mother shared.

She fondly remembered Pastor Corazon Tongco from JIL Macau where she attended services for six years when she was working in Macau. Marylie has known Pastor Cora as a good example Christian. Marylie also mentioned Pastor Angelina Espiritu of JIL Bauang, who is very humble, and Pastor Concepcion Oliveros of JIL Muntinlupa who always intercedes for her family. They all have grown old serving the Lord, and their service for God has stood the test of fire and time. For her, they are persons to look up to as a model of encouragement in life. And of course, she looks up to Bro. Eddie whom God used for her to know the Lord Jesus and grow in her faith.

Marylie is in Luneta, despite having to bring Chris on a wheelchair because, “I would love to hear and learn more about the theme ‘Know your God’ through the message of Bro. Eddie.

Committed to serve

It has been 17 years since Marylie first attended the worship service in JIL Hong Kong. She has since attended services in other JIL chapters where work brings her. For God’s faithfulness in her life and her family, Marylie said that she will continue to serve the Lord. At present, she and her family are workers in JIL Bauang. This is their humble way to honor God.

Elizabeth A. Mañalac

JIL members: Burning passion – still

The anniversary of the Jesus is Lord (JIL) Church Worldwide always brings JIL people together. This is expected every year.

And yet, every year, there are unique testimonies that make each anniversary special.

Walking amid the JIL crowd from different cities, provinces, and even countries, one can just sense the overflowing joy of those gracing the event. It was glorious at the Rizal Park grassland!

JIL members went to Luneta to proclaim how the Lord made Himself known to them.

Cute family member

All the way from JIL Bocaue, Bulacan, the Barquilla Family made itself noticeable by bringing a very adorable pet dog! They came to Luneta early and were eating comfortably in the grassland while playing with their white puppy. The comely, little pup obviously brought happiness to the family members. Their intense passion to worship and thank the God they know made them bring a cute, little family member to the occasion!

Strong grandma

Now this is heart-warming. Sis. Cresencia “Baby” Abucay from JIL Ampid in San Mateo, Rizal proved her willingness to join the JIL family celebration by bringing along her small grandchildren even though she was already old. To bring them all was indeed a great challenge!

When asked about the children’s parents, Lola Baby said that the parents entrusted them to her supervision when they left to work abroad.

What touches the heart was the way she looked at her grandchildren—full of love, care, and patience. Lola Baby’s love for them mirrors God as a very loving God to us.

Attendee since 1984

She was picking up empty bottles under the scorching heat of sunlight. She was an elderly woman who managed to squeeze in some time to work while attending the anniversary. Her name is Salome Tan from JIL Bulacan. She’s been attending JIL anniversaries since 1984. Sis. Salome said that her faith is nurtured in the JIL Church. Though she may be experiencing financial crisis, she is thankful to God whom she knows as her Provider. She said she has faith that God would one day turn her situation upside down. She had the sweetest smile as she talked about her faith in Jesus.

Knowing God will indeed cause His people to express their love and adoration to Him in the most unique and special forms.

Julia Mae Ramos